Friday, December 8

Donald Trump, Canada, Valentine’s Day: Your Monday Evening Briefing

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Good evening. Here’s the latest at the end of Monday.

1. Donald Trump’s accounting firm cut ties with his family business and retracted financial statements central to two investigations, court papers show.

In a letter to the Trump Organization on Feb. 9, the accounting firm, Mazars USA, disclosed that it could no longer stand behind annual financial statements it had prepared for the former president.

Mazars noted that the firm had not “as a whole” found material discrepancies between the information the Trump Organization provided and the actual value of Trump’s assets. But given what it called “the totality of circumstances,” the firm instructed the Trump Organization to essentially retract the documents from 2011 to 2020.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office and the office of the New York attorney general, Letitia James, have been investigating whether the former president used the statements to defraud his lenders into providing him the best possible loan terms.

2. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers to quell the anti-government protests that have swept across Canada.

3. Ukraine suggested it might have to drop its bid to join NATO, a potential major concession to avert a war with Russia.

“Maybe the question of open doors is for us like a dream,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

The comment came just as Russia’s foreign minister said that the possibilities to reach a diplomatic resolution to the crisis were “far from exhausted.” A phone call between President Biden and President Vladimir Putin of Russia over the weekend resulted in “no fundamental change in the dynamic,” according to the White House.

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A Russian invasion of Ukraine could drive up oil and gas prices. Rising oil prices are already well over $90 a barrel. An invasion could drive prices above $100.

See where an estimated 130,000 Russian troops are positioned around Ukraine.

4. Could the “Russian flu” of 1889 predict the course of this pandemic?

Scientists are searching for lung tissue from those infected during a nearly forgotten pandemic of the late 19th century in Bukhara, a city that was then part of the Russian Empire. Its similar patterns of infections and symptoms have led some experts to wonder whether it was driven by a coronavirus and if it could provide clues about how this pandemic will play out and wind down.

In other virus news:

  • Pedestrian deaths are soaring amid a nationwide flare-up in reckless driving. Authorities cite a variety of factors, from the rise in anxiety levels and pandemic drinking to the fraying of social norms.

  • Camilla, the wife of Prince Charles, has tested positive for the coronavirus. The announcement is likely to fan further concerns about the health of Queen Elizabeth II.

5. The hate crimes trial of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers opened with a prosecutor describing the racist views that the three men had previously expressed.

Already convicted of murder, the three white men who killed Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, are now being tried on charges that focus not just on what they did but also on why they did it. A jury will be asked to determine whether the defendants violated federal law when they chased and killed Arbery because of “race and color.”

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The trial is almost certain to feature ugly evidence, culled from seized cellphones and other sources. The jurors include three Black members, eight white members and one Hispanic member.

6. The Russian figure skating star at the center of a doping scandal will be allowed to continue competing in the Beijing Olympics — but she is staying off the medals podium.

Officials will not conduct an awards ceremony or hand out medals in any event in which Kamila Valieva places in the top three until her case is resolved. Valieva, who helped her Russian team win an earlier competition, is widely seen as the favorite to win the women’s singles event that begins tomorrow morning at 5 a.m. Eastern.

The drought, which began in 2000, has reduced water supplies, devastated farmers and ranchers and helped fuel wildfires across the region. It had previously been considered the worst in 500 years, but exceptional conditions last summer, when about two-thirds of the West was in extreme drought, “really pushed it over the top,” said A. Park Williams, a climate scientist.

There would have been a drought regardless of human-caused warming, Williams said. “But its severity would have been only about 60 percent of what it was.”

8. A genetic investigation technique may help turn the tide against illicit hauls of ivory and other animal parts.

The technique, familial searching, has been used in recent human criminal cases, like with the Golden State Killer. Now, the genetic legacy of poached elephants could help investigators stop wildlife trafficking and other forms of global environmental crime. Researchers linked hundreds of tusks recovered from dozens of large shipments of illegal ivory, providing detailed information about how and where global crime networks operate.

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In another market, organic cotton production in India appears to be booming. There’s only one problem: Much of the “organic cotton” that makes it to store shelves may not actually be organic at all.

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